Bernard Ross explores innovative technology in the medical devices market especially relating to venous thromboembolism (VTE).
According to Cordant Recruitment, the global medical devices market is expected to be worth approximately $17.5bn this year compared to $12bn in 2013 which is an annual growth rate of 4.3%. The UK market is the third largest in Europe, and the sixth largest in the world. In 2015, there were approximately 3000 medical manufacturers in the UK, many of these being large companies from the US. The main aspects driving the significant growth in the UK market include increasing expenditure on healthcare, the general population living for longer and a substantial amount of technological development.
A technical turn
Technological advancements have transformed the way patients are being treated. One example of this is that clinicians now have access to a host of new technologies such as bioelectronic medicine. Current uses of bioelectronic medicine include stimulating specific areas within the body with sophisticated medical precision. Until now, pharmaceutical solutions have primarily been used to achieve this type of treatment, but as medical knowledge develops non-pharmaceutical treatments are becoming increasingly common place and, in many cases, provide an effective alternative to medicine without some of the side effects. New drug development can be extremely costly and does not always achieve the desired results. In comparison, wearable bioelectronic devices can be used as an accurate and efficient alternative for a range of conditions such as life-threatening blood clots and slow healing wounds. Other technology being utilised within the healthcare industry includes greater use of connected home-based and wearable monitoring equipment, combined with apps, software and data.
An overlooked issue
VTE is often overlooked as a huge health issue despite causing around 40,000 deaths in England each year. 62% of VTE related deaths are deemed preventable given the proper treatment and approximately 30% of people who have suffered a VTE will develop further health problems over the following 10 years. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA), blood clots have emerged as one of the many symptoms attributed to COVID-19 meaning 40% of COVID-19 deaths related to cardiovascular complications rather than respiratory. To summarise the seriousness of VTE, recent research has shown that more people die from blood clots each year than the total number of people who lose their lives annually due to AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle crashes combined.
Sky Medical Technology’s geko™ device has been developed to prevent VTE. The size of a wristwatch and worn at the knee, it gently stimulates the common peroneal nerve with painless electrical pulses. This activates the calf and foot muscle pumps which returns blood from the lower leg to the heart at a rate equal to 60 of walking. The device addresses multiple clinical application areas, including the prevention of VTE. VTE is commonly treated with Intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) units. The device is also being explored for use to manage complications related to post-operative and trauma-based oedema and the prevention and treatment of leg ulcers.
Changing clinical practice
Dr Indira Natarajan is the Consultant Stroke Physician for the Royal Stoke University Hospital’s acute stroke team, part of the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust. Recognising that NICE guidance does not recommend drug prophylaxis immediately post stroke and that a number of stroke patients are unable to tolerate IPC, Dr Natarajan led an observational pilot study to assess the effectiveness of the geko™ device to prevent VTE in at-risk patients. Dr Natarajan and his team have been able to pioneer a change to clinical practice in his unit to the benefit of his patients and members of staff. His work is driving the adoption of the device and changing clinical practice in additional stroke centres both in the UK and abroad.
Technology within the medical device market is significantly improving the quality of lives on a global scale. The benefits of adopting innovative technology include clinicians being able to detect and cure illnesses at the early stages of development as well as improving overall patient diagnosis and treatment. Earlier diagnosis, when combined with more effective treatment will relieve pressure on medical staff and save hospital resources. This has the potential to significantly reduce the cost associated with treatment for the NHS.
As medicine advances, healthcare needs change to ensure that the system is fit for purpose in ten years’ time. As people live longer the pressures on healthcare will continue to grow and, combined with medical developments that are able to keep more people alive for longer, this means that healthcare resources will continue to be in significant demand. The NHS Long Term Plan has been put in place to transform care but the demand on healthcare is almost limitless, meaning that compelling new medical technology and devices could be rolled out in more NHS trusts to reduce VTEs in high risk patients, saving lives and money in the long term.